Rita Paczian and Bach Musica NZ should be extremely proud of the loyal audience base that saw Auckland Town Hall so healthily populated, from stalls to balcony, on Sunday night.
As with April's St Matthew Passion, the programme featured works originally scheduled for 2020, but lost in lockdown.
Pairing Grieg's Piano Concerto with the Mozart Requiem might have seemed a tad eccentric had one not realised that the Norwegian was an ardent Mozartian, to the point of arranging a number of the older composer's piano sonatas for two players.
Soloist Tony Yan Tong Chen, at 21, is an accomplished recitalist, with some years of awards behind him, but on Sunday night he did not seem completely at ease.
This talented young pianist has yet to fully appreciate the to-and-fro that a concerto entails.
However, the occasional technical slip was more than compensated for by many memorable details; the first movement cadenza, moving from introvert reflection to extrovert roar, was spellbinding; the folkish finale a dancing delight. Behind him, Paczian's musicians picked up on every possible nuance, marred only by recurring rough sonorities from the brass section.
Chen was particularly generous at encore time, with a substantial Mozart Fantasia, set out with the gravitas of a full sonata.
Rita Paczian knows Mozart's Requiem very well, having had it in her choral repertoire for some decades.
The choir responded with enthusiasm and precision to her disciplined baton, from the decisive entries of the opening "Requiem aeternam" while the elegiac "Lacrimosa", floated to heaven over sighing strings.
Sunday night's performance benefited from four experienced soloists in soprano Natasha Wilson, alto Sarah Court, tenor Patrick Power and bass James Harrison.
They were extremely solid in quartet formation, especially in a somewhat shortened "Recordare". Harrison deserves special plaudits for so efficiently navigating the perilously low register of the "Tuba Mirum", as does Power, for the operatic zeal and cut of his response to his colleague beside him.
What: Bach Musica NZ
Where: Auckland Town Hall
When: Sunday, June 13, 2021